The Chi Rho (after The Book of Kells) by Michelle L Hofer — mixed media painting on paper mounted on hardboard, 8 x 10 inches, 2022.

December 24/25, 2022 Lectionary Texts — Year A
Isaiah 52:7-10 • Psalm 98 • Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12) • John 1:1-14

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Image description: A decorative presentation of the Greek letters X P I spelling Christi or Christ. A variation on the design found in the Chi Rho Page from the illuminated Celtic Gospels, The Book of Kells. Space around and between the letters is filled with spiral designs, Celtic knot work, angels, moths, an otter with a fish, several cats and mice playing together and the face of Christ. A diamond symbol for Christ is the focal point of the piece and appears at the cross-section of the X. The design has been rendered in mostly metallic gold and some silver on a deep blue background.

This is the One who—imprinted with God’s image, shimmering with His glory—sustains all that exists through the power of His word. He was seated at the right hand of God once He Himself had made the offering that purified us from all our sins. This Son of God is elevated as far above the heavenly messengers as His holy name is elevated above theirs. — Hebrews 1:3-4

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. — John 1:1-5

In a college library in Ireland sits one of the most valuable and impressive books in the world. It dates back to around the year 800, but so much is unknown about this rare jewel including who made it and where. There is no question however as to the why. The book, known as The Book of Kells, is a work of art.
Christian communities in the Middle Ages, especially those in the Celtic world, had a place known as the Scriptorium. Here, books and manuscripts were both kept and copied by monks (tediously by hand, of course). The newly converted Celtic Christian scribes started to get super fancy in their copying task turning the work into worship creating elaborate page designs and illustrations. This is known as illumination. No book was more attentively and creatively rendered among the Celts like a volume of the Gospels. The Book of Kells is the finest existing example of an illuminated Gospel.

There is one page in The Book of Kells that stands out as an artistic masterpiece. It is called the Chi Rho (pronounced KEE – row) page. It is a highly decorative monogram for Christ whose name is spelled ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ in Greek. The X is Greek letter Chi and the P is letter Rho. The page is filled with unbelievable woven knotwork and spirals. All this intricacy is found on a parchment page approximately 13 by 9.5 inches in size.

Folio034r — The Chi Rho Monogram, The Book of Kells.

It is this wonderful design that I have attempted to recreate. Working on a slightly smaller scale and with larger pen tips, I was not able to replicate all of the detail found in the original. I was challenged to create my own disbursement of the spirals and creatures within the spaces around the letters. The whole piece lends itself to meditation easily as there is much to explore and discover.

Practicing Visio Divina:

  1. View the artwork
    What do you see?

    Note shapes – color – style – movement
    What stands out for you?
    What are you curious about?
    What questions do you have?
    Hold back any feelings – judgments – opinions
  2. Read the accompanying scripture and look over the artwork again
    What connections do you make?

    Between the image and text?
    What is coming to mind from your own experience?
    What feelings are rising in you?
    Are you uncomfortable with something?
    There are no right or wrong answers
  3. Read the scripture again and explore the artwork a third time
    What do you hear?

    What is God saying to you?
    What do you wish to speak to God?
    What blessing or prayer is rising in you?

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